16 days & 5,700 km Ladakh highway journey in my Skoda Kodiaq


Coming from a Hyundai Santa Fe, I discovered the Kodiaq’s energy to be a bit underwhelming. So, I made a decision to remap its ECU for the highway journey.

BHPian AnandB not too long ago shared this with different fanatics.

My worst worry and the one factor I hoped to keep away from occurred. Not as soon as however twice.

Intro

There is not sufficient that may be mentioned about Ladakh. It’s in all probability in each automobile or bike fanatic’s bucket checklist to journey there at the very least as soon as. I felt the identical for years to journey in my good outdated Santa Fe but it surely by no means materialized.

Feb 2020

It was across the first week that my preliminary plans to go to Ladakh in Aug-Sep’20 fashioned. My trusty Santa Fe had been exchanged and changed by Kodiaq a month again, one of many causes to lastly do the journey in a brand new automobile. Now I had began researching and the primary activity was to seek out members for the journey. I wanted to do that with my spouse and 2-year-old daughter however after studying about Acute Moutain Illness (AMS) or altitude illness points I dropped that concept. A lot to the anger of my spouse I nonetheless stored the plan on and began wanting amongst pals and prolonged household to finish the group.

Within the second week, we attended my cousin’s wedding ceremony and I requested his youthful brother if he was , to which he instantly mentioned sure. Subsequent, I requested my brother-in-law who additionally mentioned sure, this gave me good leeway with wifey.

I used to be proud of 3 members as with all our baggage and different stuff we may journey comfortably and total price comes out cheaper in comparison with flying there and taking leases/taxi for such a protracted journey. The next week, planning was in full stream. I had grand ambitions and added Spiti to our journey. To do a full-circuit beginning with Spiti from Shimla and exiting through Srinagar ending Ladakh. The journey had ballooned to a minimal of three weeks and we had been all excited.

By then, Covid-19 has began making common information. Our group chats had stopped and all of it ended as soon as lockdowns began to occur. As months handed by, I hoped every part can be again to regular by September but it surely was to not be.

June 2021

Quick ahead to June this 12 months. The worst of Covid-19 appeared to be prior to now. Most journey restrictions had been eliminated and vaccination had begun earlier within the 12 months. The itch to go to Ladakh began once more and I requested the blokes in our group.

I made a decision to plan for Ladakh this time and depart Spiti for later. The opposite two agreed and had been prepared. Numerous planning, modifications adopted. To reduce the AMS points the plan was to go through Srinagar and exit through Manali thus finishing the circuit. Since we had been crossing Punjab, a go to to the Golden Temple and some different historic Gurudwaras had been added.

I took the assistance of many on-line sources to plan our journey and I really feel they’re good sources of information relating to Ladakh routes, motels, homestays, and so forth.

The under plan was finalized.

As September approached, each my cousin and brother-in-law accomplished their vaccinations. A number of issues fell in our favour:

  • Elimination of Internal-Line Allow (ILP) for Indian nationals. Now the atmosphere and elective red-cross charge that you just pay on-line has turn out to be the brand new allow and you’ll go to most of Ladakh with simply the net allow. This implies you need not go to the Leh DC workplace and get a stamp. The exception being Hanle for which you continue to want to go to there and get a stamp. However as of late it takes lower than 5 minutes.
  • Opening of Banihal-Qazigund tunnel on Jammu-Srinagar freeway. I used to be at all times in two minds about reaching Leh through Srinagar or through Manali. I dismissed Manali due to the steep climb you do and the possibilities of getting hit through AMS are increased. However the Jammu-Srinagar freeway and Srinagar-Leh freeway have their very own points. Primarily the visitors and armed forces motion. The opening of this new tunnel lowered the time by greater than an hour than earlier than.
  • RT-PCR requirement. Earlier you needed to carry an RT-PCR report regardless in case you are absolutely vaccinated. However at the moment, if 15 days have handed since your 2nd dose, you need not carry an RT-PCR report and your vaccination certificates is sufficient.

Preparations

Automotive

Coming from Santa Fe, I used to be a bit underwhelmed by Kodiaq’s energy. As quickly as my Ladakh plan was on I made a decision to remap it (ECU Remaps: About Instruments, Software program & Tuners!), am very proud of the outcomes. Every week earlier than the journey I took the automobile to the Skoda showroom and received it checked. Every thing was nice, received the filters cleaned and the wipers changed as earlier ones had began streaking. The second service could be due by the point I full the journey. I additionally received the battery changed as I did not wish to take any threat. The inventory battery was manufactured in 2015(!) and changed it with Exide Epiq.

Tyre & Jack

Kodiaq comes with a space-saver as a spare. What’s worse is even if you wish to change it with a full-size, it is not going to match within the area supplied. So I had no choice however to hope I would not want to make use of the space-saver (how I used to be unsuitable!). I already had puncture restore kits, a TUSA tyre inflator and one other vital factor I wished was a hydraulic jack. From my expertise with Santa Fe, the inventory scissor jacks will not be the perfect for such large automobiles and ultimately bend or cease working to not point out the effort and time they require. I received a strong and small transportable hydraulic jack for 3k regionally which got here in a pleasant field making it straightforward to retailer. Afterward, I’ll discover out why taking one turned out to be a very good determination.

Digital camera & Flashlight

I really like milky approach and night time sky footage. Ladakh being one of many highest altitude areas freed from air and light-weight air pollution, is ideal for astrophotography. I had my useful Sony RX100v already however being a small sensor it wasn’t going to be sufficient for what I wished to do. I purchased (Mirrorless or EVIL Cameras) a Sony A7C full-frame mirrorless and three lenses to finish the package. Had two tripods prepared. I had left the video duties to my S21 Extremely because it may report at 4k/60fps together with DJI OM4 gimbal. I additionally purchased a strong LED torch that can be useful for the journey.

Jerry Can

We had been going to wish to hold gasoline with us because the plan was to back-track as little as doable. Gas Pumps are positioned in Leh, Khalsar, Diskit and Karu. When you go in the direction of Hanle, Tso Moriri and do not intend to back-track you’ll probably want to hold gasoline anyway. As a substitute of getting an costly steel jerry can I merely received two 20-litres plastic containers for 200 Rs every, one for diesel and the opposite for water. They labored completely nice and did not have any points.

Medicines

We carried the standard stuff. Ache killers, medicines for abdomen and digestion points, Electral, bandaids, and so forth. Additionally carried Diamox which supposedly helps with AMS however we by no means received to make use of it. A Pulse-Oximeter to maintain monitor of oxygen due to excessive altitudes. I had considered shopping for transportable oxygen cans in Leh however did not really feel any results of AMS so merely forgot about it.

Postpaid Sim

Pre-paid would not work in J&Okay and Ladakh. Solely post-paid sims work there. I already had a postpaid Jio connection from my Kashmir journey in Feb. My cousin additionally had a Jio connection. My brother-in-law determined to not take one in any respect even after I suggested him to get Airtel to cowl our bases. He spent a lot of the journey asking for a hotspot from each of us. I had learn that for locations like Pangong, Hanle, Tso Moriri solely BSNL works at instances. Did not wish to hassle with it however in hindsight, it will have been a good suggestion to take one as we had been utterly cut-off for 3 days in our journey.

Offline Maps and Songs

Fortunately I downloaded offline Google Maps for the journey and it helped rather a lot. Equally downloaded a great deal of playlists on Spotify and it is virtually necessary for such a protracted journey.

My cousin and brother-in-law each reached Raipur on the fifteenth. We spent the sixteenth discussing the journey and making closing preparations. At round 7 am on seventeenth Sep 2021, our Ladakh journey started.

Day 1 – Friday, seventeenth Sep: Raipur to Gwalior

Within the first two days of touring we wished to cowl most distances doable as there was going to be principally straight and open roads. Initially, Jhansi was the first-night goal however we had been advised Gwalior may be reached by night time. We selected it additionally due to the historic Gurudwara Knowledge Bandi Chhor the place we deliberate to remain for the night time as a substitute of a resort. Visiting Gurudwaras earlier than reaching Ladakh additionally felt auspicious.

My expertise with Google Maps is a blended bag. Quite a lot of instances the quickest route it suggests just isn’t the quickest and the difficulty is compounded when touring by means of small cities/villages or when community connectivity just isn’t obtainable. As such, I requested an skilled pal of mine who travels usually by highway to Punjab and Jammu, the route we must always take. He steered after reaching Mandla, as a substitute of going through Jabalpur like Google suggests, flip in the direction of Lakhnadon and there you’ll be a part of NH-44 (Kanyakumari-Srinagar nationwide freeway) which has superb roads. Proceed in the direction of Delhi and earlier than Palwal (HR) you possibly can take Western or Japanese Peripheral Expressway relying on the place you wish to go. The remainder of the journey is what Google suggests.

This was the route we took on day 1.

We stopped round 10.15 am at Chilpi for breakfast which is positioned on a ghat and the climate was wonderful. The restaurant was named Natraj and would extremely advocate it. We stopped right here once more fairly late on the return journey and the meals high quality was nice each instances.

After a very good breakfast and tea, we continued in the direction of Mandla and Lakhnadon. We had been imagined to enter Mandla and take the toll highway to Lakhnadon however took some highway earlier than it. This resulted in going by means of quite a lot of small villages and single-lane roads however they had been respectable sufficient. Finally, we touched NH-44 from Lakhnadon and it truly is an excellent freeway. Driving with the remapped Kodiaq was enjoyable and we had been munching miles shortly. Round 4.30 pm we had been on the outskirts of Sagar (MP) and there have been some nice restaurant choices. We stopped at Satyam Dhaba (extra a restaurant). Just like Natraj we stopped right here on the return route as effectively and the expertise was superb. Undoubtedly beneficial.

We entered UP which was straightforward to know due to highway situations. Numerous small holes resulting in inconsistent speeds. Close to Jhansi, we topped the tank to full because the indicator was on. Gas costs in UP had been a lot decrease than MP & CG, as a lot as Rs. 7-8/ltr so it was the plan. Equally, costs had been decrease within the upcoming states of Haryana, Punjab and even J&Okay.

Lastly, round 8.30 pm we reached Gwalior and headed in the direction of the fort. We arrived on the Gurudwara and received our lodging. The climate continued to be superb that day with clouds and a few rains, and up excessive close to the fort, it was fairly foggy. We took langar and known as it an evening understanding tomorrow could be one other lengthy journey.

Day 2 – Saturday, 18th Sep: Gwalior to Goindwal/Amritsar

I had hoped to begin at this time’s journey early however all of us had been lazy. By the point we received prepared, visited the Gurudwara and left from there it was previous 10.30 am. Because it was morning, as we had been leaving we may recognize the great thing about the fort. It’s large and whereas coming down, the view of the town down under is great. I had been right here as soon as after I was a child and it will be good to go to it once more with time in hand.

The under is the route we took on day 2. The plan for at this time was to succeed in Goindwal Sahib by night time and spend the night time there. In-between, take a detour and go to Gurudwara Takht Sri Damdama Sahib on the way in which.

The roads had been nice all over. We stopped at Meals Avenue on NH-44 after crossing Mathura round 1 pm. It’s a fairly good cease if you would like branded meals. I had KFC.

We took the Western Peripheral Expressway earlier than Palwal as deliberate and exited it in the direction of Rohtak to ultimately enter Punjab. We arrived at our first cease at Sri Damdama Sahib round 7 pm. We spent round an hour right here taking our blessing and knew we had been working late.

Our vacation spot for tonight, Goindwal Sahib, was one other 200 kms from right here. We reached there round 11 pm. However upon arrival, we had been knowledgeable that the yearly ‘mela’ was at the moment occurring and all of the lodgings had been booked. After a protracted day, it was not what I hoped to listen to and as a substitute of looking for another lodging at this late hour, we determined to succeed in Amritsar tonight itself as a substitute of tomorrow morning as deliberate.

We spent one other hour right here visiting the close by Gurudwaras and left for Amritsar round 12.30 am.

Proceed studying about AnandB’s highway journey for BHPian feedback, insights and data.



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